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Drug war at forefront of Obama's visit to Mexico

He's likely to stress shared responsibility for rising border violence during trip that begins Thursday.

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President Obama arrives Thursday for a two-day visit to the Mexican capital intent upon demonstrating that he wants a new relationship with America's southern neighbor based on common interests and shared responsibility – in particular when it comes to addressing the drug-trade violence hammering Mexico.

Mr. Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón, will discuss a range of issues, from the economic crisis and energy to global warming and microfinancing for women in small business. Obama is likely to broad-brush with President Calderón the immigration reform he says he will attempt to move through Congress, raising an issue of particular interest to Mexicans.

But the focus of their meetings will be the two-year war Calderón has been waging against the powerful drug cartels that control Mexico's lucrative narcotics trade.

Obama has said he is determined to broaden the US-Mexico relationship beyond the perennial fixations of drugs and cross-border illegal migration. But a violent drug war that has cost the lives of more than 10,000 Mexicans – and signs that the violence is now spilling across the border into southwestern US cities – will keep the issues of drugs and violence in the forefront.

Obama's first mission is to demonstrate to audiences back home – Congress and a public that is increasingly wary of Mexico – that Mexico is a viable partner. One simple reason the president will stay overnight in Mexico City is a desire to show that Mexico is not the failing state that a recent Pentagon study concluded it risks becoming.

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